Food History

Grape gluts and Mother Clones: Prohibition and American wine

When Prohibition barred Americans from from making and selling intoxicating liquors, discover how winemakers survived (or didn't).

La Choy and Korean cofounder Ilhan New: Negotiating Asian culinary identities in America

If you are a regular shopper in the international aisle of your grocery store, you have seen La Choy soy sauce and canned chop suey. But how did La Choy get its start?

Prohibition was fantastic for American beer, or, cheers to homebrewers

Without Prohibition, would America have experienced a vibrant tradition of mid- and late-20th-century homebrewing? Probably not.

300 years and counting: A new look at New Orleans and “Creole cuisine”

Celebrating the 300th anniversary of its founding this year, New Orleans is a city whose culture and cuisine have captivated the American imagination for generations.

Culinary History Made Fresh at National Museum of American History

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is serving up American culinary traditions with a series of “Cooking Up History” demonstrations in 2018. The free, hour-long cooking demonstrations (schedule follows) feature Smithsonian food historian Ashley Rose Young paired with a guest chef each month to prepare a recipe and discuss the history of ingredients and culinary techniques, cultural background or its association with a historical period or individual. Visitors may purchase a dish inspired by the featured recipe in the museum’s cafe.

The worker's turkey

Like many homes across America, in curator Mireya Loza's home Thanksgiving meant turkey. Lots of turkeys. Five or six turkeys.

Now you're cooking with electricity!

Before Alton Brown, Rachael Ray, and Giada De Laurentiis, there was Louisan Mamer (1910–2005). An early employee of the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), Mamer traveled around the country teaching farmwomen how to use electricity in their daily lives. Demonstrating how to cook with electricity was a major part of Mamer's job and she developed many recipes during the course of her career.

Adding weight to Julia Child's kitchen

On the 105th anniversary of Julia Child's birth (August 15, 1912), the museum's food history team is thinking anew about Julia's life and legacy.

Coming of age: Young women and the FFA

High school can be a challenging time for teens. Much as they do today, young men and women throughout the 20th century wrestled with identity, education, and social status during their teenage years. For young women in the 20th century, changes in the way people thought about gender and equality greatly impacted their experience. Documenting those changes for teens is an important aspect of telling a larger story about the changing roles of women in the 20th century. The museum has found an interesting way to tell that story through its agricultural collection. 

Six things from my first 100 days

Getting to know just under two million objects, almost 17,000 cubic feet of archives, and around 140 curatorial and collections staff is a big task. I started work on January 23 as the new associate director of Curatorial Affairs—I look after everything to do with the museum's collections and curatorial work. One hundred days on, here are a few of the things I've enjoyed, noticed, or learned.